Podcast Choice #09 – The West Wing Weekly

I have been asked a fair few times about the different podcasts I listen to. I haven’t done a post like this for a while, let’s look, wow seven years ago…

I use to have a lengthy commute to work, and also travelled a fair bit for work, so it was nice to have something to listen to. Since about 2012 I started to commute by train, as a result I could do other things, in a car you drive and you can listen to podcasts. On a train you can do a few different things, but mainly you can look at a screen. 

Recently I have been travelling a bit more by car and have been rediscovering podcasts, most have been old favourites, some of which I have already blogged about. I have also found some new ones. So decided to resurrect this blog post series.

This series will discuss and review the different podcasts I listen to or have listened to. In a previous blog post I spoke about the why and how I listen to podcasts, now we look at the actual podcasts I listen to.

The West Wing Weekly

This week’s podcast is The West Wing Weekly

The West Wing Weekly is an American podcast hosted by Hrishikesh Hirway and Joshua Malina. In each episode, the hosts discuss one episode of the television program The West Wing, which originally aired on NBC from 1999 to 2006.

I really enjoyed The West Wing when it was first “broadcast” back in the early 2000s.  The West Wing was an American political drama television series created by Aaron Sorkin. It was broadcast in the US from 1999 to 2006.

The West Wing

I recently re-watched the entire first series having managed to get it for £4.99 on Amazon Prime. It was just as good as I remembered it and when the prices come back down I will probably get the rest of the series, or look for it on DVD.

It was whilst watching The Big Bang Theory when I wondered what else Josh Malina, who stars as President Sebert, had been in, as he looked very familiar. I saw he had starred in The American President, but also he had starred in The West Wing. On his wikipedia page it said

Malina co-hosts the podcast The West Wing Weekly with Hrishikesh Hirway. The series debuted in March 2016.

I was intrigued and interested.  So on a recent car journey, I loaded the podcast and listened to the fist few episodes relating to the first season. It often takes a couple of podcast episodes to bed in, and though I enjoyed the pilot episode, the next few I think were better.

Though I have listened to fan podcasts of shows, I think what I really enjoyed with The West Wing Weekly was the inside knowledge that Josh brings to the recording. He has worked with Aaron Sorkin the write behind the West Wing for many years including the stage version of A Few Good Men and the film, The American President. He also joined the cast of The West Wing in 2002.

The format of the show is based on the concept of having watched the episode in question, you listen to the podcast as Josh and Hrishikesh discuss the plot, the character development, the filming. They also bring in guests, so for example, in the third episode they bought in a guest, Dulé Hill, who played Presidential Aide, Charlie Young. 

Though I’ve only started to listen, over the last few years the podcast has featured various cast and crew members including series creator Aaron Sorkin, director Tommy Schlamme, series actors Martin Sheen, Rob Lowe, Bradley Whitford, Richard Schiff, Allison Janney, Janel Moloney, Marlee Matlin, and Dulé Hill, longtime series writer-producers Eli Attie and Lawrence O’Donnell, and many former government officials, academics, and pundits, among others.

It’s interesting to listen to the analysis, seventeen years after the show was broadcast, as so much had changed since then, and we know so much more about the White House, part of which is down to The West Wing. An early example of that was the use of the term POTUS, which back then nobody knew what it meant, today we do, part of which is down to the success of the West Wing.

Josh and Hrishikesh have covered one episode a week, so at the time of writing are well into the final season, number seven. I have a bit of catching up to do… both in terms of listening to the podcast, but also watching The West Wing.

Subscribe to The West Wing Weekly in Apple Podcasts App

Just fibre…

I’ve not mentioned my home internet connection for a while now, since we had the FTTC fibre upgrade. The main reason is that is just works. With roughly 30Mb/s download and 9Mb/s upload speed I feel I am back, in terms of internet speeds, where I was in 2012 at our old house before we moved.

A good example is how streaming video across multiple screens just works with no buffering, whereas on our previous ADSL connection a single stream struggled. Services such as iPlayer, Netflix and Amazon Video both stream in HD with ease. We never use to be able to watch the trailers on the Apple TV, but now no problem.

When working from home I often download and upload large files, this is so simple that I don’t worry about it any more.

So I am really pleased with the FTTC connection, it just works.

Finally…

network cable

Well if you have been following my sorry saga of Cabinet 25 in Weston Village and it’s journey to fibre, you will be pleased, sorry relieved, that I finally have fibre. Five years after moving house my broadband is now FTTC and much faster than the 1.4Mb/s ADSL speeds I have had over that time. It’s being seven years since the Worle Exchange was upgraded for FTTC, but as with any FTTC enabled Exchange, you can only upgrade to fibre (FTTC) once the cabinet has been enabled.

I had been given an activation date of the 19th September. I had seen BT Openreach vans there that morning (they had been there the day before) so had reasonable expectations that the activation date wouldn’t be missed.

The only timing I had been given was that it would be completed by midnight, but I did wonder if it would be finished earlier, I just couldn’t see BT Openreach being there in the dark.

Mid afternoon my ADSL connection stopped. I did restart the router/modem but no connection. An hour later the modem went blue, I had a fibre connection.

It takes time for the connection to settle down, but I am pleased with a 25Mb/s download speed and it was nice to see how a 1GB software update which would have taken up to eight hours, take just eight minutes! The upload speed is slower than I would like at 2Mb/s but that’s still five times faster than what I had before.

Later it was nice to be able to be downloading an iOS update whilst streaming BBC iPlayer at the same time and browsing the web.

So I now have fibre.

Still waiting…

BT Openreach Faceplate

Okay so maybe being a little impatient, but I am still waiting on my fibre connection to be enabled.

BT Openreach finally enabled the cabinet on the 30th August and I placed my order with Plusnet the next day.

In my initial correspondence with Plusnet they seemed to imply that my connection would be upgraded on the 7th September.

However as with others I have since found out that my connection would be enabled on the 19th September. No actual time, but sometime during the day.

What I was confused with, was when I got FTTC at my old place, we had to have a visit from a BT Engineer who fitted a new faceplate to the master socket. So I was expecting to have some kind of appointment to have a faceplate installed. Talking to Plusnet customer service I have realised that as the predicted speed is low then I won’t need to have a new faceplate and “filters will work just fine”.

It was back in 2014 when BT decided that for up to 38MBps fibre connections that this could be a self-install option and therefore no faceplate needed to be fitted.

However some sites are recommending that you fit a faceplate anyhow.

We urge anyone considering or opting for a self-install fibre broadband service to install a faceplate filter. These are inexpensive and will generally deliver significant improvements in broadband speeds.

So I have been thinking that once I have the upgraded connection to fit my own faceplate. You can get them quite cheaply on Amazon.

So not long now and really fast speeds…

Well maybe just fast speeds…

Well faster than 1Mb/s at least!

The cabinet is enabled…

Originally BT Openreach said they would upgrade Cabinet 25 in Weston Village by the end of March, this deadline was quickly moved to the end of August. If you have been following my saga you will know that the final phase has been dragging.

Today, the 30th August, one day before the BT Openreach deadline, they have finished the process and are accepting orders for FTTC connections.

The cabinet is enabled...

I had checked earlier today and as for most of the last month the websites were saying, still checking stuff and no you can’t order a fibre connection today. This evening that has all changed and I could now place an order for a FTTC connection.

The speeds compared to my previous fibre connection are not as good.

The cabinet is enabled...

Back in 2010 I was getting 40Mb down and 10Mb up. According to the above information I can expect roughly 25Mb down and 4Mb up.

So the next step is to place an order…

I did try and upgrade my Plus.Net account, but their website failed with an error.

Probably down to the age of my old account, so I need to phone them…. and the phone lines are closed.

So tomorrow I may be able to order fibre, then there is a ten day wait.

I have been waiting five years, I think I can wait ten days.

They’re at the cabinet…

BT Openreach

While waiting for BT Openreach to finally finish activating the cabinet, they have been there for the last two days.

They updated the status on the BT Openreach back on the 20th July, back then they said:

You can’t order a fibre service today but typically it’ll be available to your premises within the next month.

Now over a month later, you still can’t place an order a fibre service.

I do wonder if they are finalising the activation, but who knows.

Still waiting….

Hmmm…

It’s being quiet…

No wonder BT Openreach still haven’t finalised the fibre upgrades to cabinet 25.

There is only so much checking you can do.

We're performing our final quality checks and making sure everything is ready for your fibre order.

I suspect the person responsible is on holiday.

Still checking…

network cable

So just over a week ago, according to BT Openreach they have activated the new cabinet, but we still can’t place an order for “superfast” broadband.

I have also been using another method of checking progress which is the ADSL checker site from BT.

This is the result from my line.

BT ADSL Checker

As you can see the maximum downstream rate is no more than 1.5Mb/s.

According to my DSL router, the actual speeds I am getting are

DownStream Connection Speed – 1152 Kbps
UpStream Connection Speed – 440 Kbps

Which to be honest is not much good for anything these days, even web pages are so bloated these days, it can take an age to download a single web page from some sites. Flickr for example is really challenging to use. So you can imagine the challenges we face in streaming video, using services such as Skype or any kind of cloud service.

Just up the road, with a property connected to cabinet 17, you can see the different having a FTTC enabled cabinet can make on speeds.

BT ADSL Checker

You can see though the ADSL speed is better than mine at 7.5Mb/s, the FTTC rate is around 80MB/s.

I was also interested to see that fibre to the premises (FTTP) is also available on that cabinet to that specific line with a 330Mb/s downstream rate!

Doubt that will be available on cabinet 25.

BBC News are reporting though that this may change…

Telecoms regulator Ofcom forced BT to legally separate its broadband infrastructure division Openreach in March.

Since the split, Openreach has pledged to offer super-fast fibre broadband to 10 million homes by 2025, using technology known as fibre to the premises (FTTP) which it had previously said was too expensive for wide rollout.

I know, I know I should be happy I am getting FTTC and not worry too much about FTTP.

Activate

So when is three months only two weeks? When you are upgrading cabinet 25 in Weston Village to FTTC.

Well we have reached the next stage of the Fibre Journey, moving from Connect to Activate.

We're performing our final quality checks and making sure everything is ready for your fibre order.

We’re performing our final quality checks and making sure everything is ready for your fibre order.

At the previous stage, which was on the 6th July, it said:

You can’t order a fibre service today but typically it’ll be available to your premises within the next four months.

Well here we are two weeks later at the Activate stage and the site says:

You can’t order a fibre service today but typically it’ll be available to your premises within the next month.

So I am anticipating that this may take less than a month.

However the process is moving faster than it says on the website, it’s one of the reasons I am blogging about it, so I can see if we are on target or slower than the website says. The build phase (which should be a “month”) was just a week and at the end of that we had a new cabinet.

new fibre cabinet 25

So I should be able to place an order very soon….

Making a connection

After seeing BT Openreach vans and engineers around the cabinet, the connecting website shows Cabinet 25 has moved into the Connect phase.

We’re connecting power to the new fibre cabinet and joining the new fibre lines to the existing copper network.

Now there is a caveat that…

You can’t order a fibre service today but typically it’ll be available to your premises within the next four months.

However the process is moving faster than it says on the website, it’s one of the reasons I am blogging about it, so I can see if we are on target or slower than the website says. The build phase (which should be a “month” was just a week!

Now the building work is done, BT Openreach need to connect the cabinets and connect power to the new cabinet.

For a Fibre to the Cabinet connection this stage is about connecting the power and fibre cables to the cabinet in your area. The existing and new cabinets are now connected to each other by underground copper cables. The physical build is now completed and there shouldn’t need to be any further works in your area.

After this has happened then BT Openreach can activate the cabinet, inform service providers and then I can place an order.